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2018 NFL Draft: Film room scouting report on cornerback Mike Hughes

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The Panthers could use some quality depth at cornerback. Is Mike Hughes the right player to fill that need?

NCAA Football: Central Florida at Southern Methodist Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Background

Mike Hughes started his collegiate career at the University of North Carolina. Hughes was a four star prospect from New Bern, NC. Hughes was suspended by Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora for a violation of team rules during the 2015 season. UNC ultimately dismissed him from the university in February of 2016. Hughes was charged with a count of misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury after an incident that happened at a fraternity house. Hughes went the JUCO route and chose to play at Garden City Community College for one season. He had offers from South Carolina and East Carolina, but ultimately chose to join Scott Frost’s unit in Orlando. Hughes finished his only season at Central Florida with 4 interceptions, 11 passes defensed, and 1 forced fumble.

Man coverage

The NFL combine doesn’t occur until late February, so the only resource that determines a prospect’s height and weight come from the official university’s website. UCF measured Hughes at 5’10 191 pounds, which is average height and length. Nevertheless, what makes Hughes stick out is his ability to use his strength to press receivers on the sideline.

Hughes has a great understanding of pressing the receiver, flipping his hips, and using the sideline as another defender.

Hughes doesn’t get fooled by the receiver’s footwork. He mirrors each footstep and again shows off his fluid hips by using the sideline to his advantage.

Hughes is matched up at the top. Hughes, again, presses the receiver to the sideline and keeps him on his hip.

One area where Hughes does struggle are routes stemmed to the middle of the field. Hughes is matched up with Anthony Miller at the top of screen. He opens his hips too early and Miller immediately has leverage on Hughes. Fortunately, UCF’s front brings pressure so the quarterback can’t target Miller.

Here is another route that exploits Hughes in the middle of the field. The coverage was better due to his mirroring skills, but before Miller stems inside Hughes’ hips are in a trail position. Hughes does well to recover to make it a difficult catch for Miller, but this is an area where he could stand to improve.

Later in the game, Hughes improved upon his issues covering the middle of field to show recovery skills to the outside hip of Miller. This saved a touchdown and proved Hughes’ worth as someone who can improve upon weaknesses.

Zone coverage

Hughes is outstanding in zone coverage mainly due to his football smarts. He can pick up on routes, anticipate curl flat concepts, and has smart awareness.

Memphis runs a curl flat combination to Hughes’ side. The Knights are in cover 3. Hughes is playing with outside leverage. He anticipates the hitch route just as the quarterback releases the ball and makes a clean play on it.

Hughes is playing “trap” coverage, which means he is playing a multiple read coverage. If any route on his goes vertical, he passes it off to the safety. Hughes reads the flat route and immediately pursues the receiver.

Tackling and run defense

This is a clear area where Hughes struggles. His effort is not the issue, so this makes me more optimistic that he can improve his technique.

Hughes has a clear alley to tackle the running back. He lays a clean hit, but Hughes isn’t able to bring him to the ground.

Hughes is the outside corner at top of screen. Memphis runs a bubble screen, but Hughes has issues shedding the block. Hughes has to get better hand placement on the receiver, so he’s not getting easily blocked.

Hughes is lined up as the outside corner at the bottom of the screen. This is where he showed proper technique to shed a block. He drives back the blocker with strength and hand placement. Then he’s able to assist on the tackle. If he can show consistency when it comes to tackling and run defense, then he will have limited weaknesses.

Grade and fit with Carolina

Before I get into my full grade, I understand that some have inquired about the details of my grading scale. I don’t want to provide the multipliers, but I will have a post closer to the draft detailing my full process. In addition, I will provide each game I scout of the specific prospect.

Hughes would be an outside cornerback in Carolina’s system. Hughes has issues sticking to the inside hip of wide receivers in man coverage, but in Carolina’s heavy zone scheme he likely wouldn’t be asked to contain those routes. Hughes has the short area agility to mirror receivers at the line of scrimmage. Due to Hughes’ very good coverage on vertical sideline routes, he would be asked to defend the deep third in cover 3. It remains to be seen what scheme Eric Washington will implement, but it’s safe to assume there will be plenty of cover 2 and cover 3.

Games Watched

2017 vs Auburn (Peach Bowl)

2017 vs UCONN

2017 vs Memphis

2017 vs Maryland

Grading System

  • 95+: HOF talent
  • 90-94.99: Future All Pro
  • 80-89.99: Future Pro Bowler
  • 70-79.99: Day 1 starter
  • 60-69.99: Potential year 1 starter/year 2 potential starter
  • 55-59.99: Potential to make a roster
  • 54.99 lower: Training Camp/depth player

My final grade for White is 74.75, which amounts to a day one starter.

What about you, Panthers fans? Do you think the Panthers should draft Mike Hughes?